Job Profile: Healthcare Policy Analyst

Healthcare reform under the Obama administration helped America’s uninsured rate reach an all-time-low at 8.6 percent in 2016. Regardless of your political perspective, it’s clear that more healthcare policy changes are needed to fix an inefficient sector. The Journal of Patient Safety reports that up to 400,000 deaths are caused by preventable medical errors each year. According to the Institute of Medicine, $765 billion of domestic healthcare costs are wasted annually. One AACN survey found that 58 percent of clinicians felt unsafe to publicly speak up about problems they’ve observed. Altering this worrisome paradigm is the goal of healthcare policy analysts working primarily in government and nonprofit organizations. These skilled researchers use statistical analysis to evaluate the effects of legislative changes to the U.S. healthcare system.

Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies healthcare policy analysts in the general political science category with an average yearly salary of $103,210, or $49.62 per hour. Healthcare policy analysts working for the federal executive branch bring home $119,810 on average. The highest paid analysts work in private consulting firms for a median wage of $128,670 each year. Unsurprisingly, Washington DC is the top-paying metropolitan with a $117,140 average salary.

Beginning Salary

Newly hired policy analysts with under five years of experience typically land in the bottom 10th percentile of earnings with annual income around $47,210. Nonetheless, those who advance to the federal government’s GS-15 level make $93,000 to $145,000 each year. Healthcare policy analysts with seniority can eventually claim lucrative six-figure salaries surpassing $162,500.

Key Responsibilities

Healthcare policy analysts have the primary responsibility of evaluating current policies in the medical field and suggesting tweaks that will improve patient services. Analysts compile useful data from research literature, polls, surveys, census data, and expert interviews to identify the expected impact of policy changes. Their in-depth knowledge of the political landscape is used to weigh the costs and benefits of proposed health policies. Typical tasks include meeting with government officials, estimating healthcare budgets, crafting policy proposals, researching whether policy goals are met, raising public awareness of healthcare policies, and monitoring events with medical implications. Healthcare policy analysts are expected to write reports and give presentations on their findings.

Necessary Skills

Successful healthcare policy analysts are sharp-witted critical thinkers with the examination skills to draw logical conclusions from complex legal information. As their title implies, analysts must possess qualitative and quantitative analytical skills to research the efficiency of current policies. Being a skilled communicator with good public speaking and writing skills is essential to present policy recommendations concisely. Healthcare policy analysts need technical skills to handle research data and build conceptual models. Intellectual curiosity is another must-have for analysts to continually stay up-to-date on political topics affecting healthcare. Healthcare policy analysts also need logical reasoning, problem-solving, and decision-making skills to form appropriate government solutions.

Degree and Education Requirements

Since policy change recommendations could affect millions of lives, it’s no surprise that most healthcare policy analysis jobs require post-graduate training. Future analysts can begin by obtaining undergraduate majors in political science, economics, public policy, public health, government, and related fields. This will fulfill admission criteria at accredited U.S. graduate schools for Master of Health Administration (MHA) programs. Other acceptable degrees include a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Health Policy, Master of Public Administration (MPA), and Master of Public Policy (MPP). Some analysts attend law schools for a Juris Doctor to master lawmaking processes. Earning a Ph.D. in Health Policy could also unlock academic careers.

Pros and Cons of the Position

Political gurus wanting to participate in the development of successful policies could find great joy as a healthcare policy analyst, but there are rewards and challenges. On the sunny side, analysts receive an above-average yearly salary with healthy benefits and vacation. It’s possible for analysts to eventually start their own consulting practices for higher income potential. Healthcare policy analysts work in a comfortable, climate-controlled office setting interacting with diverse people, which is ideal for extroverts. Analysts exercise their brain crunching complex data to determine the effectiveness of policies. However, finding a policy analysis job can be difficult with government hiring slowing. Healthcare policy analysts usually don’t have enough autonomy to pick their specific tasks or make actual legislative changes. Working long hours sedentarily at a computer screen can have poor physical effects. Healthcare policy analysts also spend years in higher education, which may rack up loan debt.

Getting Started

Getting at least a master’s degree is only the first step toward healthcare policy success. Acquiring the right blend of political and clinical experience is the next. Aspiring healthcare policy analysts should develop their resume by landing internships, fellowships, or consulting projects with government agencies. For instance, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) offers the Student Academic Internship Program (SAIP) in Washington, DC. From intern, you may climb the advancement ladder to associate policy analyst. Pay your dues because healthcare policy analysts typically need three to five years of experience. Although being licensed isn’t necessary, added professional credentialing can help with promotion. The AHIMA offers a Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA) designation for those who pass a 3.5-hour examination with 150 multiple-choice questions. There’s also the AFMA Certified Economic Analyst (CEA) credential for mastering cost-benefit analyses.

Future Outlook

Efforts to cut government spending for tightening budgets will adversely affect the hiring of new healthcare policy analysts. Uncertainty over Trump’s election could worsen this trend and make analysis jobs even more competitive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment of healthcare policy analysts and other political scientists will decline by 2 percent. In this small niche, those cuts will only result in around 100 jobs lost though. Policy analysts will remain relevant to help government agencies propose improvements to current legislation. Job prospects may be best with nonprofit, lobbying, and political organizations that rely on analysts to manage complicated legal data. Some healthcare companies will hire analysts directly as consultants on regulatory issues.

Overall, healthcare policy analysts are the strategic minds who assess the soundness of current and proposed legislation that impacts patient care. Analysts are focused on developing logical strategies that can positively improve the functioning of healthcare. Whether they’re working with city, state, or federal officials, policy analysts have a tremendous impact on the direction of healthcare reform. Sharpening your political know-how to become a healthcare policy analyst could help you enhance the infrastructure that saves lives.

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